I’d known my computer longer than I’d known my wife. That MacBook and I had typed school papers and edited videos together. It stored everything from the invitation for my 14th birthday party to my wedding photos. And one day last July, it just wouldn’t turn on.
It turned out the issue was in either the power supply or the motherboard. Bad news because it meant we needed a new computer. Good news because the hard drive was unaffected. We were able to transfer everything on the hard drive to our new computer.
That’s when I realized first-hand the importance of backing up my computer. I hope you haven’t learned that lesson the hard way. If you haven’t, now’s the time.
According to one study, 1 in 20 hard drives fails within the first year-and-a-half of use. After three years, more than 1 in 10 have already failed. What would you miss if you lost all the files on your computer? Don’t risk it!
Now that you know the importance of backing up your computer’s hard drive, here’s one more factor that’s extremely important: offsite backups. If your backups are stored on an external hard drive sitting on the same desk as your computer, it’s protecting you against hard drive failure. But if your computer is destroyed by something like a flood, fire, or tornado, that external hard drive is gone, too.
So always keep a copy of your backups in a separate location from your computer! In my case, I have one backup hard drive at home and one in my office. Every week or so I rotate them, so my offsite backup is never more than a week old. You may have another place that makes sense to store a copy (safe deposit box, relative’s house).
Today I’ll help you decide what type of backups work best for you and what hard drive and/or software you’ll need. Next week we’ll talk about how to actually put your backup plan into action!
Buying an external hard drive
The main way to backup your computer is to buy an external hard drive and plug it into your computer when you want to create a backup copy. You have a copy of your files right there in your hands, but you have to remember to plug in the backup regularly and find an offsite location for it.
How much space do you need on your external hard drive? Short answer: at least as much space as your computer’s hard drive has, and preferably double it (more space never hurts).
For Windows: To find your hard drive capacity in Windows 8, open File Explorer, right-click on “This PC” on the left side, and click “Properties.” In Windows 7, click the Start button on your desktop and click “Computer.” Right-click on “Local Disk” near the top, and click “Properties.” The Properties window will show your total capacity in gigabytes (GB), as well as how much is used.
On a Mac: click the Apple logo in the top-left corner of your screen, and click “About This Mac” in the drop-down menu. In the little window that pops up, click “More Info,” then click the “Storage” tab along the top of the window.
Where to buy
You can find an external hard drive at a local place like Best Buy or at an online store like Amazon. It will connect to your computer with an included USB cable. Again, you’re looking for at least double the capacity of your computer’s drive. Here’s a conversion you will probably need: 1 terabyte (TB) equals about 1,000 GB. A 1TB external drive is around $70 right now. WD, Seagate, or Toshiba are popular and comparable brands.
I hope you’ve realized the importance of backing up all the valuable information you have stored on your computer. Come back next week as I show you how to actually set up your backup software (which is included with your computer). You’ll see that the backups are very easy to do once you’ve initially set up the software.
In the meantime: homework! Go get a hard drive so we can set it up next week.
As always, send me any questions you have or topics you’d like me to talk about. And click the buttons at the very bottom to share this post with someone who might need it. Thanks for reading! See you next week.
1 – Full disclosure: Backblaze, the company that authored this study, offers cloud backup plans.
2 – Another option is “cloud” backups. Two of the more popular options in cloud backups are CrashPlan and Backblaze. This site has a more detailed explanation.
3 – Open File Explorer by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you’re using a mouse, pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search), entering File Explorer in the search box, and then tapping or clicking File Explorer.
4 – If you have a Mac, you don’t necessary need a drive labelled “For Mac.” They’re typically more expensive, but are ready for your computer out-of-the-box. A non-“For Mac” drive can be quickly formatted to work on a Mac, so decide whether you want pay a little more for a drive pre-formatted for your Mac.
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